Sometimes I can’t sleep. It’s not as heinous as it sounds. Lying awake in the dead of night is a perfect time to create drama out of the mundane events of the previous day. Was I successfully able to hide my indifference at work, and if not, what can I do to be better at that in the future? Did I actually put premium gas into my car this morning as the dealer suggested, and if not, what will regular gas do to my engine? Are bed bugs nocturnal, and if so, could the threat they cause to the public’s health be negated if everyone just slept during the day? Why am I itching so much?
The most perplexing thing about insomnia isn’t the fact that I can’t fall asleep. It’s actually thinking about how everyone else in the house is currently sleeping soundly, completely unaware of my plight. Glancing over at my sleeping wife, and the sleeping cat on the other side of the bed, I am always amazed at their ability to fall asleep in all conditions—optimal or otherwise. My wife could sleep on a flight of stairs if it was absolutely necessary, and still come out of it the next morning, fully rested and with vigor.
In fact, she successfully enters her third cycle of R.E.M. sleep before the first sleepless thought crosses my mind, which is usually 8–10 minutes after putting my head down.
The author, Antonio Tabucchi said, “I prefer insomnia to anesthesia,” which I wholeheartedly endorse. Besides, I’m not interested in eating in my sleep, driving in my sleep, talking in my sleep, or any of the other heinous side effects associated with sleep aids. The only thing I yearn to do in my sleep is to sleep. And to snore loudly, as my wife is apt to point out.
Punching yourself in the face to the point of unconsciousness may work for a boxer, but not for a guy with a sad right hook. The only thing I manage to bruise, besides my jaw, is my ego. Lavender must be Latin for “lost cause.” Hot tea before bed is a great idea if you want to remain awake all night and pee all night.
Years ago, it got so bad that I sought professional help for this condition, as the worry of a sleepless night builds upon itself. Each night lying awake leads to the concern over another one, and before you know it, you are the anti-Rip Van Winkle; trading in an unkempt beard for bloodshot eyes and yawns so hard you crack your jaw, which is ironic because my own punches could never do that.
“Are you going to get fired for yawning?” the therapist asked me several weeks into our sessions together.
She had a really great point. A really expensive great point. $140 a week for that gem. She was right, of course. Thanks, doc.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that it’s only as bad as I make it. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve also found that analyzing and ranking all the Star Trek films seems to help me fall asleep. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is always at the top, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier at the bottom. All the other films in the series move around based on my mood, which can lead to some fascinating (pun intended) observations.
If all else fails, I head to the basement, eventually fall asleep, and then spend the next day at work not getting fired for yawning.